Man… cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.
—Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) German Philosopher, Scholar, Writer
Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.
—Oprah Winfrey (b.1954) American TV Personality
The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet
The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.
—Henri Bergson (1859–1941) French Philosopher, Author
Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.
—John Wayne (1907–79) American Actor, Director, Producer
Nothing impresses the mind with a deeper feeling of loneliness than to tread the silent and deserted scene of former flow and pageant.
—Washington Irving (1783–1859) American Author, Essayist, Biographer, Historian
If the past cannot teach the present and the father cannot teach the son, then history need not have bothered to go on, and the world has wasted a great deal of time.
—Russell Hoban (b.1925) American Children’s Books Writer, Novelist, Writer
Clinging to the past is the problem. Embracing change is the answer.
—Gloria Steinem (b.1934) American Feminist, Journalist, Social Activist, Political Activist
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
—George Orwell (1903–50) English Novelist, Journalist
The one charm of the past is that it is the past.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet
The past always looks better than it was; it’s only pleasant because it isn’t here.
—Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936) American Author, Writer, Humorist
To design the future effectively, you must first let go of your past.
—Charles J. Givens (1941–98) American Self-Help Writer
When I wanted to understand what is happening today, I try to decide what will happen tomorrow; I look back, a page of history is worth a volume of logic.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841–1935) American Jurist, Author
The past is a bucket of ashes, so live not in your yesterdays, nor just for tomorrow, but in the here and now. Keep moving and forget the post-mortems. And remember, no one can get the jump on the future.
—Carl Sandburg (1878–1967) American Children’s Books Writer, Poet, Biographer, Novelist, Socialist
Study the past, if you would define the future.
—Confucius (551–479 BCE) Chinese Philosopher
The past is strapped to our backs. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it.
—Mignon McLaughlin (1913–83) American Journalist, Author
The past is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends.
The good old days were never that good, believe me. The good new days are today, and better days are coming tomorrow. Our greatest songs are still unsung.
—Hubert Humphrey (1911–78) American Head of State, Politician
We need not destroy the past. It is gone.
—John Cage (1912–92) American Composer, Philosopher, Poet, Artist
The past is for us, but the sole terms on which it can become ours are its subordination to the present.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
The free world must not prove itself worthy of its own past.
—Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) American Head of State, Military Leader
It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
—Soren Kierkegaard (1813–55) Danish Philosopher, Theologian
The illusion that times that were are better than those that are has probably pervaded all ages.
—Horace Greeley (1811–72) American Elected Rep, Politician, Reformer, Editor
To be able to look back upon one’s past life with satisfaction is to live twice.
—Martial (40–104) Ancient Roman Latin Poet
The people who get into trouble in our company are those who carry around the anchor of the past.
—Jack Welch (b.1935) American Businessperson
The past is only the present become invisible and mute; and because it is invisible and mute, its memorized glances and its murmurs are infinitely precious. We are tomorrow’s past.
—Mary Webb (1881–1927) English Novelist, Poet, Writer
Mr. Meant-to has a friend, his name is Didn’t-Do. Have you met them? They live together in a house called Never-Win. And I am told that it is haunted by the Ghost of Might-have-Been.
—Marva Collins (b.1936) American Educator
The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.
—H. G. Wells (1866–1946) English Novelist, Historian, Social Thinker
Age and sorrow have the gift of reading the future by the past.
—Frederic William Farrar (1831–1903) British Theological Writer
Look back, and smile at perils past.
—Walter Scott (1771–1832) Scottish Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Lawyer
That past which is so presumptuously brought forward as a precedent for the present, was itself founded on some past that went before it.
—Anne Louise Germaine de Stael (1766–1817) French Woman of Letters
Yesterday is a cancelled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have — so spend it wisely.
Once you uncover the history of this pattern and trace its roots, you will see that your reaction in the present moment is really a reaction from the past, a shadow character’s attempt to protect you from reexperiencing an old emotional wound, which instead sabotages you in the present.
—Connie Zweig American Minister, Columnist, Psychotherapist
As the great Confucius said, “The one who would be in constant happiness must frequently change”. Flow. But we keep looking back, don’t we? We cling to things in the past and cling to things in the present…Do you want to enjoy a symphony? Don’t hold on to a few bars of the music. Don’t hold on to a couple of notes. Let them pass, let them flow. The whole enjoyment of a symphony lies in your readiness to allow the notes to pass…
—Anthony de Mello (1931–87) Indian-born American Theologian
The past is never dead, it is not even past.
—William Faulkner (1897–1962) American Novelist
Never look for the birds of this year in the nests of the last.
—Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616) Spanish Novelist
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted; it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians.
—George Santayana (1863–1952) Spanish Philosopher
Bring the past only if you are going to build from it.
—Domenico Cieri (b.1954) Mexican Writer
The past is the best prophet of the future.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
The past is at least secure.
—Daniel Webster (1782–1852) American Statesman, Lawyer
Better by far you should forget and smile, than that you should remember and be sad.
—Christina Rossetti (1830–94) English Poet, Hymn writer
One must always maintain one’s connection to the past and yet ceaselessly pull away from it. To remain in touch with the past requires a love of memory. To remain in touch with the past requires a constant imaginative effort.
—Gaston Bachelard (1884–1962) French Philosopher, Psychoanalyst, Poet
We live in the present, we dream of the future, but we learn eternal truths from the past.
—Soong Mei-ling (1898–2003) Taiwanese First Lady, Politician, Painter
Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.
—Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) English Poet, Dramatist, Essayist, Novelist
There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the Best as the past withdraws.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) German Poet
What’s past is prologue.
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616) British Playwright